Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Amy Tan Working on New Book

Amy Tan's first book, The Joy Luck Club, was chosen as the book to be read as part of the Harris County library system's participation in the Big Read this summer. Tan was in fine company because the list of novels from which the county system chose her novel included works by Bradbury, Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Cather, Hemingway, Steinbeck, McCullers and Wharton, among others.

The Big Read is an NEA project "to restore reading to the center of American culture."
The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain.

The Big Read aims to address this crisis squarely and effectively. It provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. The initiative includes innovative reading programs in selected cities and towns, comprehensive resources for discussing classic literature, an ambitious national publicity campaign, and an extensive Web site providing comprehensive information on authors and their works.

Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program locally, ideally attended by the mayor and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (panel discussions, author reading, and the like); events using the book as a point of departure (film screenings, theatrical readings, and so forth); and book discussions in diverse locations and aimed at a wide range of audiences.
Seeing Amy Tan's picture in my library branch on each recent visit made me wonder if she had recovered from her terrible bout with Lyme disease, so I was happy to read in a Reuter's India dispatch today that she is doing much better and is working hard at her writing again. The article ends with this interesting quote from Tan regarding her decision never to release information about any of her "in progress" work.
"I never talk about what a new book is about as it will leave me. There is a story in Chinese where a man goes to a magical place and is overwhelmed by the beauty and the peace. He has to leave and they tell him that if he tells anyone where this place is he will never find it again. That is the metaphor for writing. You are in a secret place and discovering it but once you tell people it is gone."
I find this to be an extremely graceful refusal to an interview question she didn't want to answer, a response perfectly in character for my image of the author.


  1. You know Amy Tan is one of those authors whom I've never read but know that one day I should. When I do, I plan on starting with the Joy Luck Club. I saw the movie before I'd even heard of Amy Tan and I remember I couldn't stop talking about it for months.

    I've also wanted to read Saving Fish From Drowning, simply because I like the title.

  2. I read The Joy Luck Club when I was young, and enjoyed it, but was never moved to read anything else of hers. But I do love her "extremely graceful" refusal to the interview question--very nice!

  3. I haven't read all that much of her work yet myself but I am fascinated by the way that her illness affected her life's work. It always strikes me as a huge tragedy when an artistic person loses some of the best years of their productive lives this way.

  4. Gentle Reader, for some reason that I can't even recall, I bought a first edition of The Joy Luck Club and put it on the shelf for a number of years before ever picking it up again. By the time that I got around to reading the book, my copy was starting to become to valuable for me to downgrade its condition by reading it so I bought a paperback version of the book. My original copy is now worth several hundred dollars last time I checked and it will likely never be read. Strange, sometimes, how things work out.